Friday, October 25, 2013

The Christmas Countdown Begins

Travis says, What do you mean 'Christmas Countdown'? 
It's not even Halloween yet!

Over the years, I've turned into quite the Christmas grinch. I wish Christmas were more like Thanksgiving--lots of good food, happy family time around the fire, peace and quiet, no presents. Instead it's a month's worth of madness. But this year, there's a new Christmas sheriff in town.

That would be me.

Today is October 25th, and it's time to get going. Okay, it was probably time to get going on August 25th, but I really can't bear the idea of spending a third of the year on Christmas. 1/6 of the year is all I can do. From reading Jo's blog, I see I'm not the only one who's already thinking about the holidays (in fact, I imagine I'm at the end of a long line, but planning two months ahead is really pretty impressive, given my usual last-minute ways). (Okay, not last minute, but nowadays starting your holiday planning on December 1st is a bit last minute, given Christmas craziness).

My plan for this weekend: clean out the pantry, the lazy susan cabinet and the deep freeze. None of these is terribly out of control, and if I tackle them now they should stay in good shape through the season. I'll also get a good idea of what I need to stock up on.

I'm also going to make one batch of Christmas cookie dough. My recipe makes a ton, and I'll probably only need two batches total. It freezes well. The trick is to freeze it small batches and not to forget that it's there.

I'm very pleased with myself that last year I started a Christmas notebook, and right after the holidays I made a list of what wrapping supplies we have and what we need. I hope that will save me from making desperate trips to Target for gift bags and then discovering the stash we have in the attic.

So, what are you doing to prepare for the holidays? Or are you just winging it?


Awkward situation: There is a boy in Will's class he was friendly with last year, but has grown weary of this year. We'll call him Max. We had Max over for a sleepover early in the school year, and while he's not awful, he's not Will's cup of tea (or mine, either--when we pulled up the driveway, Max took one look at our house and said, "Ethan was right, your house is small." A bizarre remark, given our house, while not a McMansion, is hardly a shack in the woods. What I soon came to realize is that this kid is uber-competitive, and he was simply throwing down the gauntlet).

As I write, Will's two best friends, Gavin and Win, are upstairs playing with the magnetic dartboard Gavin gave Will for his birthday (which is Halloween, which is why the birthday sleepover was last night)(no school today). The three boys can definitely get competitive with each other, but overall there's a spirit of cooperation and comradery which makes their get-togethers a good time for everyone.

When Max slept over, Will was in tears by the end of the night, exhausted by everything having to be a competition, and Max often winning the competitions by simply claiming, "I won. You lose every time!"

(I should revise my above remarks. Max is awful. But he's awful in a way that makes you think he's really insecure and just trying to find his place in the pack.  Still, he won't be sleeping over at our house again.)

So, earlier this week I got an email from Max's mom, wanting to know if Will was going to play any sports this winter, because she wanted Max to play a sport, but he'd be more enthusiastic about playing on a team with friends. I emailed back and let her know in the vaguest possible way that Will is going to play basketball, and now she wants to sign Max up to be on Will's team.

Will does not want Max on his team. (I haven't told him about the email exchange, but I can assure you that Will does not want Max on his team.) There's not much I can do about it. We actually still have to sign Will up, and it's tempting to write on his form, "Please do not put Will on the same team as Max!"

Here's what I know I won't do that I'd like to do: Email Max's mom and say, Will and Max have had a friendship fail. Please don't try to put them on the same team. Please stop sending me emails about the summer camp Max went to last year in hopes I'll send Will there with Max next year. Please let this go.

But since I don't have the guts to do that, I will keep getting emails from Max's mom, and I will have to find creative ways to say, no, Will doesn't want to come over for a sleepover or a playdate or be on Max's team. Drop it. These guys are in fifth grade; it's time for them to work the friendship thing out for themselves.

I'd much rather think about cleaning out the deep freeze. And that's saying something.

Happy weekend, everyone! Merry Christmas!


Everyday Life On A Shoestring said...

I'm exactly on your time scale re: Christmas. I refuse to be thinking about it ALL year which means I verge on the last minute. October 25th sounds a reasonable compromise between super organised and winging it dangerously! I've started hoarding some non-perishable food items to save having to brave the shops for a big food shop and spread the cost, and have a few prezzies put by too. On the friendship front, it's hard - I try to stand back and let my kids work things out. We're all quite confrontation-averse in this house, so we've had lots of conversations about being assertive and standing our ground in an honest, polite and friendly way. The one time the mothers got involved with a girly fall out, it was disastrous and seemed to make everything ten times worse.

Heather said...

After a lifetime in retail, I gave up on holiday decorating. I needed a respite from it all when I arrived home. So, we do the basics: tree, a few lights, cookies. We are so much more relaxed since I've stopped trying to do it all.

You do have the guts to send the email and I think you should, it would actually be the kindest option. Otherwise it will all be awkward, stressful, and make everyone feel bad without really knowing why.

Angela said...

I am sure you will be able to find a creative, diplomatic way to "Max Out"

I just cannot think of any helpful ideas right now!

Something will occur to you eventually xxx

Pom Pom said...

Hi Frances! Oh, that's hard. Poor Will. NOBODY wants to be around that kind of competitive passion. Ugh. That house comment reminds me of my mama bear ways when the kids' friends would say snotty things. I wanted to "snot" them right back with my forty something year old skills. Sigh.
I'm thinking about Christmas. Candles. Nuts. Branches. Not presents.

Jo said...

I think I'm going to live to regret the home-made Christmas caper..
I have a policy of never interfering with the children's relationships, unless it's really nasty, which thankfully has never happened. I do give advice when asked, or when the kiddos are unhappy.
I imagine Max's poor mother is desperately trying to make friends for her son, whose former friends are probably all competitioned out. I guess sending her an email advising her to sit down with Max to explain that sharing, kindness and give and take are the main ingredients of friendship is pretty much off the table... pity.
My kids are probably tired of me telling them that learning to deal with difficult people with grace, but without giving in to their whims is a valuable life skill, and that using their 'I feel' phrases to tell people how they feel in tricky situations is a meta life skill.

Tracy said...

I bought ONE Christmas gift in August on a shopping tour. That's it. Now I'm staring down the barrel of serious organisation being required. I will wait til I've done my final exam on Friday and then perhaps I'll have the energy to think about it. Like you, I've become a grinch and I don't want to be like that. I want it to be enjoyable for all of us - including me. Perhaps we can un-grinch ourselves together ;o)

You're right - kids like Max are hard work. Maybe his mum feels like she needs to organise his friendships because the kids don't want to compete with him all the time. Sounds like he's the kind of playdate guest that needs a lot of parent involvement to prevent tears!

Heather said...

It is so hard trying to protect our kids from friends who aren't really quite the right fit. My son once had a friend who kind of put him down a lot, and one day I was driving him home from a playdate and my son commented on a limo that was driving by and how 'cool' he thought it was. The friend goofed on him a bit, and before I could bite my tongue I said, "Why would you say that? He's just commenting that he thinks it's cool. He's entitled to his opinion. It IS cool." I probably added a few other sentences to make my point that I can't remember. Anyway, from that day forward that boy never deliberately put my son down again. Weird, but effective.

Anyway, I'd stop replying to her emails in an effort to maybe distance yourself. I also don't think it would be a bad idea to ask the sports coordinator to not put them on the same team. I know of other mothers who have done such a thing. Maybe that is not as brave as sending the mother an email, but subtle avoidance might be a bit kinder in this case. Good luck whatever you do!

Gumbo Lily said...

I don't think I am a Grinch, but some might think I am since I refuse to get into the Christmas Tailspin way before the month begins. I don't put up a tree until at least Dec. 12, and I don't play Christmas music until Dec. 1. I have ordered some picture storybooks for my grandchildren, but that's it. I do have poufs to make for the grands, but they should be easy projects. I intend to continue my embroidery in hopes of having some tea towels to give, but I want to let November come and go pleasantly and then enjoy December just the same with a Big Celebration on Christmas Day. I'm a candles, evergreens, pine cones and family kind of Christmas person.

I'm sorry to hear about the trouble with Max...and his mom. Oh how frustrating. I know you'll figure it out somehow.


wayside wanderer said...

I love the expression on Travis' face. Haha. What a cutie.
Christmas? I'm winging it. I can't even think about it. My house is a wreck and i have nothing in me that cares. And I just found out I'm throwing a wedding shower. And I'm having teens over in a week. I gotta get a grip.

magsmcc said...

Ignore the mother. Sod Max. Mattman has started compiling a fartbag list. Now when he is overwhelmed by someone we put them on the fartbag list. Yes, we! No, I am not making any Christmas preparations. Yet. I can barely keep up with blog reading....

Nancy McCarroll said...

Hi, Frances. Hope your mom is doing ok. I read your post over the weekend but did not comment. But I thought about it.

And on a different tack...your Reluctant Convert blog makes me wonder if you don't have other writings that would apply to that other blog. Just wondering, and wanting to learn your thinking on other things. Just in case you have any extra time on your hands, which you do not.

Amanda said...

What are your favorite advent books? You've mentioned reading some before, but I'd love to know what they are!